Ben Meyer

Special Topics Correspondent

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Ben took the newly-created position of Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR in September of 2019. For a year, he focused on reporting on water and water resource issues in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as part of The Stream, a weekly series.

Starting in September 2020, Ben’s reporting focus has been on the new landscape of living, working, and playing in the Northwoods, a place mostly devoid of giant employers, but a home to many entrepreneurs, small businesses, and people working from home. The series is called Employed.

In addition to special topics reporting, Ben often contributes to daily news reporting and hosting on WXPR.

Prior to joining the WXPR team, Ben spent more than seven years serving in several roles at WJFW-TV in Rhinelander.

Originally from Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, Ben is a graduate of UW-Madison. He lives in Rhinelander with his wife, Erika.  Outside of work, Ben is currently pursuing a law degree at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in the Twin Cities. He’s is an avid Brewers and Badgers fan, and enjoys doing outdoor projects, running, and competing in triathlons.  Ben is also a WIAA basketball official and calls play-by-play for Rhinelander Hodags sports.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

The cabin sits on U.S. Highway 8 between Crandon and Laona.

When Johnnie Aschenbrenner was growing up, it was his home. Despite being on a major highway, there were no power lines until 1962, so the family used generators for electricity.

Nowadays, the cabin has an updated yet rustic feel, and Aschenbrenner rents it out as part of his small resort on Wabikon Lake. It’s literally connected to the tiny bar Aschenbrenner also owns. All told, resort guests can expect a pretty modern experience, DIRECTV included.

Except for one thing.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

The internet connection was working as expected at Coontail Market in Boulder Junction on Tuesday.

The grocery, convenience, and outdoor sports store could accept credit cards and access its servers.

But it’s not always like this.

At least once a week, said owner Steve Coon, there is some sort of internet issue.

“It happens way too frequently with DSL, which is the product, of course, that most rural areas have,” he said.

Coon said internet service is not only slow, it’s unreliable.

Patrick Semansky/AP

President-elect Joe Biden told President Donald Trump to "step up," go on national television, and condemn the protests at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday afternoon. On Wednesday, protestors forcefully stormed the U.S. Capitol to prevent Congress from certifying Biden's election as president. Biden will take the oath of office on January 20.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Earlier this month, Isaiah Miller and Ryan Van Dyke made their very last home solar installation until the spring, just in time to avoid the harshest cold and snow.

They climbed a slanted, shingled roof in Rib Mountain to install a few more solar panels.

“We are currently setting down the last seven modules for this system,” Miller said as he braced himself against the roof’s slope.

The system will be able to generate 4.3 kilowatts of solar power, which could be enough to provide electricity to the entire home.

Mike Spranger

People living on flowages in Wisconsin will have to keep waiting for the right to install piers to be protected by state law.

A proposed bill to extend pier-placement rights to waterfront flowage owners died in the state legislature this year.

In Wisconsin, the land underneath flowages is often privately owned.

Ascension Wisconsin

Above: Critical Unit Registered Nurse Bob Towne receives the COVID-19 Vaccine at Ascension St. Mary’s Hospital in Rhinelander from Licensed Practical Nurse Marna Bauer.

The first caregivers at Ascension St. Mary’s Hospital in Rhinelander got COVID-19 vaccinations on Wednesday.

Ascension St. Mary’s will serve as the initial location in the Northwoods for COVID-19 vaccinations for Ascension Wisconsin associates and clinicians.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Only “trace amounts” of PFAS were found in liquid discharged from the long-closed City of Rhinelander landfill, new testing shows.

The testing was part of an effort to identify sources of PFAS contamination in Rhinelander-area water. High levels of PFAS forced the city to shut down two of its five municipal drinking water wells in 2019.

Vault Medical Services

Wisconsin reported another new record for daily deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday, as 120 more people died statewide.

The report comes on the same day as the state introduced a free, at-home testing option.

Wednesday marked the third time Wisconsin has tallied more than 100 deaths in a daily reporting period. All have come in the last month.

The total number of deaths in the state has now surpassed 4,500.

The state government will roll out a new app that allows people to participate in COVID-19 contact tracing from their phones.

It’s called WI Exposure Notification, and will be available next Wednesday.

“This smartphone apps uses Bluetooth technology to let you know if you’ve been in close contact with someone who has tested positive,” said Gov. Tony Evers. “Android and iPhone users will see a notification on their phones to download or enable the app next Wednesday.”

Ben Meyer/WXPR

To Scott Williams, most drones are just toys.

They can fly high and take photos and video, but can’t do much more.

But his drones? As he sees it, they might change the world.

“If we could put a flying cell tower [up] there, then we could do computing, we can do whatever right off of this thing,” said Williams. “We need a flying computer. We need this network that we can put anywhere and just let everyone compute off of it.”

Dan Dumas/Kim Swisher Communications

On a sunny day last week in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Kevin Sundholm picked up a small handful of marble-sized pellets of iron ore from the ground.

“Those pellets would go through there and they would get baked,” he said, gesturing at the abandoned foundations of the former Groveland Mine complex near Felch, in Dickinson County.

“You can see the remnants up on top of the silos there,” Sundholm said.

He knows the lay of the land. He worked here more than 40 years ago.

Forest County Sheriff's Office

Police in Forest County have arrested seven people in three separate drug investigations.

On Nov. 19, deputies arrested 26-year-old Aaron Morris of Crandon near that city. They found several prescription pills in his car. While he was being booked into the Forest County Jail, three aluminum foil bundles with fentanyl and crack cocaine fell from his body.

On a recent Saturday, Bill Sherer carefully wrapped fine thread and colorful chenille around a hook. A handful of fly-tying learners watched and copied the move with the materials in their own hands.

Sherer has been teaching these classes at his self-proclaimed “throwback, old-fashioned” fly-fishing shop, We Tie It in Boulder Junction, for years.

“Here in the Upper Midwest, we have fishing season and we have fly-tying season. It’s a great winter activity,” Sherer said.

But for this winter’s round of classes, Sherer is the only one in his shop.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

A major logging project in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest near Eagle River will go forward despite strong objections from an environmental law group.

The Fourmile project will include cuts from almost 12,000 acres of National Forest property, yielding timber valued at $4 million.

One hundred seven more Wisconsinites died of COVID-19 in the last 24-hour reporting period, setting yet another state record, leaders announced on Tuesday.

It’s the second time the daily death count has surpassed 100.

State leaders again pleaded with people to take action to control the spread of the virus.

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